Monday, March 17, 2008

Trash it or Compost it? Bag it or ReBag it?

Trash it or Compost it? Bag it or Rebag it?

by Billie A Williams

Compost improves soil drainage and water retention — we all know that as organic gardeners. But it makes a difference what you put into that compost heap. So what is the idea recipe?

Three parts carbon-rich brown matter like wood chips, shredded newspapers the dead leaves from your fall raking and plants you’ve culled from your thinning process in your garden.

You need to mix that with one part nitrogen-rich green matter, which can be grass clippings – that is one good reason to have a mower with a grass catcher. Green leaves and fruit and vegetable waste such as peels, cores, bruised or damaged spots from your cooking. You may also add coffee and tea grounds/leaves, egg shells just about any kitchen scraps except meat and meat by products.

Your compost pile should be at least three cubic feet – that’s three wide, three high and three deep – think a cube of soda and you will be able to visualize that cube. If you are using a barrel composter, you mound isn’t’ in direct contact with the earth so you will need to inoculate your mound with garden soil, finished compost or fresh manure. The smaller your ingredients the faster they become compost. You could use a leaf shredder, or your lawn mower or even run your tiller through your compost heap to make it break down quicker. You should turn the pile no more then once a week and keep it moist but not soggy. A useful analogy is to think of a sponge that is wrung-out, it is still wet, but it doesn’t drip when you pick it up.

Compost takes nine to twelve months to fully mature; if you add to your heap regularly, use a screen to sift out finished compost. It’s ready when it looks and feels like moist chocolate cake crumbs and smells like fresh-turned earth.

Contrary to popular belief in some areas, your compost heap when done properly will not have an offensive odor.

Which brings us to what to use when you go grocery shopping, when they inevitably ask you paper or plastic? Give this some thought.

Paper bags are made from a renewable resource, obviously trees. They are recyclable and biodegradable. On the negative side, chemicals used to manufacture paper bags pollute air and water.

Plastic bags require less energy to manufacture, equaling less air pollution and industrial waste, but they are made from nonrenewable petroleum or natural gas, and are non-biodegradable—toxic chemicals are also used during manufacture.

The best solution – recycle by bringing your plastic bags back to the store for more groceries when you shop – or — and this is the best, bring your own cloth bags to fill when you shop. This may be a little inconvenient for a major shopping trip, but if you could recycle or reuse, bring your own cloth you are saving at least some of the environment we will be leaving to the next generation.


Billie A Williams is an award winning, multi-published author who's accidental sleuths solve crime with wit, wisdom and chutzpah. visit her website for more information at

email: billie at billiewilliams dot com


Karen @ Wiggly Wigglers said...

Hi Billie,

Great article and lots of good tips. I always have cloth bags with me when I shop and have just bought myself a shopping trolley (not much street cred, but very green). My favourite bag is one that has been recycled from an old cement bag.

Karen, Wiggly Wigglers

Maryann Miller said...

Good article about composting. I have been composting for a couple of years now and have good results. It helps to have a horse that adds his ingredients. :-)

Word Crafter said...

Thanks Karen, good idea
And Maryann Thank you for your comments also - My kingdom for a horse = ) They may create a bit of weeds in the garden but when I weed I say it aerates the soil so that is a good thing - that's like the rocks create the minerals we need in our diets = )
Thanks to both of you for your comments.